What goes around comes around and, in Brian Vickers' case, it came around at pole-winning speed Friday at Auto Club Speedway. But things still managed to turn sour for the Red Bull driver.

With a lap at 183.439mph - a time of 39.250secs - Vickers claimed the top spot for Sunday's Auto Club 500 Sprint Cup race, the second event on the 2009 schedule.

Vickers, whose #83 Red Bull Toyota was wrecked after contact from Dale Earnhardt Jr's Chevrolet in last Sunday's Daytona 500, rebounded smartly from the catastrophe, edging three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson by 0.059 seconds at the two-mile speedway.

Jamie McMurray qualified third, followed by Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle, while Jeff Gordon, David Reutimann, AJ Allmendinger, rookie Scott Speed and Kyle Busch will start from positions six through ten respectively.

"I couldn't ask for much more out of the car," said Vickers, who claimed the sixth pole of his career and his second since joining Red Bull Racing in 2007. "We fought [it being] tight in practice quite a bit, and we found something there in that last [practice] run that helped us."

Vickers was especially pleased at securing one of the perks that goes to the pole winner - first choice of pit stall.

"Any pole is special," he said, "and it's great here to get that first pit stall."

However, Vickers' night was turned on its head when the Red Bull team discovered a problem with the #83's engine after qualifying and opted to change powerplants. NASCAR officials confirmed that Vickers will start from the rear of the field in Sunday's race as a result of the change.

Vickers is still credited with the pole, the sixth of his career, and retains the first choice of pit stalls. He will have a chance to shake down the new engine during final Cup practice on Saturday evening.

The engine in Michael Waltrip's #55 Toyota also proved problematic, failing to fire and preventing him from making a qualifying run. Waltrip, however, will start 42nd on an owner points provisional.

When Vickers drops to the rear on Sunday, each of the cars on the inside row each will move forward, putting McMurray in the pole position for the start of the race.

Though Johnson dominated the first practice session, he didn't get an optimum performance from his qualifying lap.

"I missed [turns] one and two a little bit, and I think that hurt me in the end," the reigning Cup champion said, "The only thing I can think of is that Vickers and I went to In-N-Out Burger last night. I had a double-double, and he had a single. I think that extra patty killed me."

Allmendinger, third-place finisher in the Daytona 500, was fastest among those required to qualify on speed, while Tony Stewart, in eleventh, also made the field comfortably in the #14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.

Daytona 500 winner, and current points leader, Matt Kenseth will start 24th, but Todd Bodine, Tony Raines, David Starr, Mike Garvey and Sterling Marlin all failed to qualify. David Gilliland made the field in 32nd spot on his first outing in TRG Motorsports' #71 Chevy. Gilliland's release from Yates Racing was announced Friday.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service



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